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Friday, October 24, 2008

Yanks (1979)


A sweet, sad movie about people in wartime


A John Schlesinger film, set in World War II in the village of Dobcross, in Greater Manchester, England. Starring Richard Gere, Vanessa Redgrave, William Devane, Lisa Eichhorn, Rachel Roberts and Tony Melody.

Much of the filming took place on location in northern England, especially in localities near Oldham, Stalybridge and surrounding areas. The opening shot of the film is of a war memorial and this is in Stalybridge town centre, and throughout Glossop. The dance party scene was filmed at Hyde Town Hall. The sequence showing the troops boarding the train and making their farewells was filmed at Keighley railway station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, making use of authentic World War 2 locomotives now preserved on the KWVR.

In the build-up to the Normandy landings, thousands of American troops descend upon England. Near a small Lancashire town, a large US Army base is established and soon houses the rambunctious "Yanks" as they are known to the English. On leave in the town, young Arizona man, Matt Dyson (Richard Gere), encounters pretty young Jean Moreton (Lisa Eichhorn) and asks her out to the cinema. She is the girlfriend of a British soldier fighting overseas, and initially rebuffs his advances. He is quite persistent, and she was having her doubts about her relationship with her fiancé anyway. The handsome, brash American sergeant is in stark contrast to the restrained Englishmen she has known. Soon, she is keeping company with Matt, though it is largely platonic at first.

For her part, Helen (Vanessa Redgrave) is a bit more worldly in her affairs. John (William Devane), an American Army captain, comes to her estate often, and a relationship develops, though no actual love scenes are shown. They are both married, but her Royal Navy officer husband is away at sea, and his wife is thousands of miles distant.

Eventually, the kind-hearted Matt Dyson is accepted by the Moreton family, though she is engaged to an English lad. They welcome his visits, when he often brings hard-to-find foods normally on wartime rationing and other presents. But when news of Ken's death in action arrives, Jean's mother condemns their relationship as a kind of betrayal.

Helen and John travel to a Welsh seaside resort, where they make love. Almost immediately after, the Americans ship out by troop train to the South of England to prepare for D-Day. In a mad scene, many of the townswomen, some of them pregnant from liaisons with men they may never see again, scramble to catch one last glimpse of their American boyfriends before the train leaves town. Matt shouts from the train that he will return.

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